The Policy Analysis Process:
The Classic Policy Analytic Format
I. Problem Definition/Formulation: Analystís statement of the policy problem to be addressed. A first consideration is why the problem is a concern that needs to be addressed through public policy? A second concern is the potential cause(s) of the problem. Through causal analysis an analyst can often separate problem symptoms from problem causes and thereby restate the problem in a manner that will lead to a more effective policy alternative.
II. Selection of Criteria: An ethical world-view that suggests means by which policy alternatives may be evaluated. Criteria connote measurement -- a yard stick by which to assess the efficacy of policy alternatives. At a minimum such criteria usually include the social values of efficiency and equity (e.g., distributional equity). Other criteria that are frequently included are political feasibility, and relevant definitions of effectiveness.
III. Construction of Alternatives: The development of feasible alternatives to solve or mitigate the problem is a frequently underestimated, and creative, part of the policy paradigm. Two is the minimum number of alternatives to be considered; the status quo and at least one alternative. Alternatives should include policy options that key political actors (including your specific client) are proposing or seem to have on their mind, but analysis should also propose or identify alternatives that may be superior to those under political discussion.
IV. Comparison of the Alternatives: An analysis of possible policy alternatives based on their satisfaction of the various criteria. Analysis is usually based upon available and/or easily accumulated data and information regarding the projected outcomes or impacts of each alternative. A recommendation is often made and defended. The recommendation should be treated as a useful but not overriding element in the analysis; it is often the least valuable element to the policymaker.
V. Consideration of Organizational Constraints (Implementation Analysis): An analysis of whether the organization(s) charged with responsibility for operating the policy or program can put it in place successfully. Does the organization in question have both the bureaucratic will (commitment) and the technical and institutional capacity to do what the selected policy demands?
VI. Implementation and evaluation of the program: expert analysis
(evaluation research using objective, scientific criteria), market accountability
(relying on aggregate consumer tastes), and political accountability (citizen
support/opposition through democratic processes).
These six steps are analytically distinct, and sometimes analysis may
involve only one segment (e.g., problem definition/formulation).
In a full policy analysis, however, they may not be conceptually separable.
Steps I-IV particularly may all occur at the same time.